Blockchain for sustainable development: The case of Ghana


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In fashionable instances of speedy globalization and digitization, technological developments have now reached such proportions that the utilization of cryptocurrencies isn’t any new phenomenon. The know-how behind blockchain opens the web for monetary providers by changing belief, a basic part of the monetary system for hundreds of years, with transparency built-in right into a decentralized community. Thereby, blockchain bears the potential to help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Growth Targets (SDG) by empowering the unbanked, predominantly ladies, lowering transaction charges in addition to creating another supply of liquidity.

Solely 57.7% of adults in Ghana in 2021 had a checking account. Unable to afford participation within the formal monetary system, the poor discover themselves paying probably the most for basic monetary providers. Furthermore, there’s a multiplier impact inherent with the financial participation of ladies that takes wide-ranging penalties respecting various SDGs.

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Monetary inclusion could alleviate poverty, enhance well being and well-being, gender equality, take a optimistic impact on kids’s schooling, and extra. Entry to inexpensive monetary providers thus turns into a catalyst for financial development and alternative. Merely put, there’s a lot at stake right here. Let’s dig into it.

West Africa’s financial powerhouse: Ghana

Sharing borders with the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo, Ghana lies within the coronary heart of West Africa. The inhabitants is about 32 million, and in addition to numerous tribal languages, English is among the acknowledged nationwide languages. Often seen as West Africa’s financial powerhouse, in 2020, the nation’s buying energy parity (gross home product per capita) was round $5,744 United States {dollars}. Till it was hit by a extreme banking disaster spanning from 2017 to 2020, Ghana’s financial development had been astounding — the epitome of what many international locations within the area ought to realize. Shaken by simply one other disaster, going by the title COVID-19, the economic system is within the means of restoration.

Ghana’s rich stay concentrated within the south’s city areas and lower-income households dispersed throughout the countryside, residence to a lot of the inhabitants. In consequence, banking providers are largely positioned in city areas. Regardless of that, a 2010 analysis concluded that bodily entry to banks is just not the central barrier to banking however reasonably Know Your Buyer (KYC) necessities that lots of the unbanked are unable to meet. Additionally, 64% of the respondents said inadequacy of earnings as being the prime cause for not having a checking account. Though this examine could appear outdated, a brand new examine from 2021 arrived at related conclusions by stating that one of many important hardships of opening a checking account resides within the lack of economic sources.

Important to the nation’s monetary providers infrastructure is cell cash, which accompanies the on a regular basis lifetime of thousands and thousands of Ghanaians — roughly 38.9% of the inhabitants in 2021 had registered a cell cash account. Cell cash, launched in 2009, is a monetary service that allows folks to switch cash and deal with funds with out the necessity of getting a checking account. All that’s required to finish a transaction is a cell phone able to sending SMS.

Depending on the community supplier, cell cash permits account holders to entry credit score and different kinds of economic merchandise. It has the added benefit that its KYC necessities are lax in contrast with that of banks. Usually, one “solely” wants proof of id to open an account. Taken collectively, this will come as simply one other hindrance to monetary inclusion (not everybody could have a cellphone or identification paperwork), however that is as little as the barrier will get. Two of its distinct disadvantages, nevertheless, are transaction and withdrawal charges. MTN, for instance, prices for cell cash transfers as much as 5%. Costs that will appear minor however construct up over time.

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On Nov. 17, 2021, the Ghanaian authorities announced the enactment of an e-transaction levy of 1.75%, desiring to refill state coffers. Initially proposed to return to go by February, the e-levy stays postponed as a result of fierce opposition. But it’s been asserted that no matter the digital tax, most individuals will preserve utilizing cell cash.

Lastly, international remittances is a subject that can not be ignored when discussing the state of affairs of economic providers in Ghana. Receiving remittances accounts for a noticeable portion of the nation’s GDP, because it does in a number of creating international locations.

In 2018, Ghana was the second-largest recipient of remittances in West Africa after Nigeria. With extra Ghanaians migrating to Europe and North America, a considerable variety of households depend on remittances to make ends meet. Whereas banks are generally the most costly selection for worldwide transactions, cash switch providers ship the cash to a financial institution, money pickup location or cell account at a decrease value.

Cryptocurrency has a aggressive edge over cross-border transactions. In lots of circumstances, owing to fewer middlemen, sending cash internationally is cheaper and sooner by way of blockchain. As reported by the World Financial institution, the typical expense of sending $200 was 6.8% within the third quarter of 2020. In actual fact, facilitating worldwide remittances was pivotal for El Salvador’s coverage determination of launching Bitcoin as a legal tender in September 2021. The SDGs additionally acknowledge substantial prices for remittances as an element that impedes monetary inclusion and, thus, have set the target of lowering them to three% by 2030.

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Blockchain for sustainable improvement

Blockchain’s options of being incorruptible and void of intermediaries could assist to raised serve the unbanked. In flip, this might additionally result in a diversification of the monetary providers market, which has historically been dominated by banks. With out delving into reams of technological gobbledygook, blockchain-based cryptocurrencies may do all (and extra) that banking establishments can do, however with no third-party controlling person information and charging folks stupendous charges for primary providers.

Moreover all that crypto can do, greater than 10 years after the primary Bitcoin (BTC), it has not but achieved broad shopper adoption. Drawing on quantitative surveys carried out with folks residing within the Better Accra Area, the nation’s most urbanized area and placement of its capital metropolis, the findings point out an absence of belief in cryptocurrencies’ future: Is it a monetary bubble, or will it substitute nationwide currencies, gaining belief within the course of? Nobody can inform for positive. Nonetheless, the findings additionally reported likelihood for cryptocurrencies to choose up steam and enrich the monetary providers market, particularly if they might be simpler to make use of, extra steady, and accepted by retailers for use for every day purchases.

It seems that folks don’t but have the information required to carry out cryptocurrency transactions (not solely in Africa, as different surveys present). Certainly, it takes an enormous period of time to get your head round it.

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Lack of belief thrives on lack of understanding that impedes crypto’s adoption — the demonizing means by which this monetary instrument is commonly portrayed by a lot of the media doesn’t do good both. It’s a vicious cycle that can not be disentangled until there exists an easy-to-use monetary service that each people and store homeowners can use. As quickly as there may be such a platform, maybe with which one can switch funds by way of SMS (thus constructed on an present infrastructure a great deal of Ghanaians are conversant in), this cycle could also be challenged and cryptocurrency’s adoption accelerated. That being stated, there are companies engaged on SMS-based blockchain transactions. Though this doesn’t imply changing different forms of monetary instruments, it will diversify the monetary providers sector and embrace people who’ve to date been overlooked.

At this juncture, it’s price noting that the fluctuation within the worth of some cryptocurrencies might be overcome by using stablecoins, cryptocurrencies which can be pegged to fiat — i.e., government-issued currencies — or valuable metals. Whereas critics are fast to level out that these cash are not decentralized as, by way of fiat, their worth closely relies on the efficiency of the foreign money they mirror. Some companies within the crypto house have succeeded in creating comparatively decentralized stablecoins — e.g., MakerDAO’s Dai).

Additionally, greater than 70 international locations are at the moment engaged on establishing a digital equal of their nationwide currencies. Known as central financial institution digital currencies (CBDC), a digital equal of nationwide currencies given out by central banks could amp up shopper protections and spark a regulatory framework, entailing fiscal and financial coverage, for a big a part of the monetary system, which has to date extensively eluded authorities. After all, there are drawbacks: Customers must hand over a point of privateness and management, whereas central banks could be outfitted with inconceivable energy permitting them up to now again transactions, render them undone, and so forth. — away with the “tamper-proof” high quality of decentralized finance. It’s an outstanding alternative for the mannequin authoritarian authorities that needs to consolidate its grip over monetary transactions, and residents. Ergo, cryptocurrency and blockchain could also be a medium of freedom or be misused for dystopian outcomes.

Then again, by offering a easy infrastructure for kickstarting crypto, CBDCs joined with a user-friendly platform might be the start line and gateway by means of which individuals can study cryptocurrency and change into empowered. Henceforth, folks could really feel inspired to scout the cosmos surrounding cryptocurrency, develop their monetary literary muscle, and transfer financial savings to decentralized options.

Classes taken from El Salvador may assist propel monetary inclusion by means of crypto in different elements of the world. Whereas this text can not discover all of the arguments round CBDCs, they could simply be one strategy to generate belief, incite monetary inclusion, and speed up the adoption of crypto. Acknowledging the immense potential of cryptocurrency, I discover that it’ll in all chance improve in relevance. What issues me is reasonably how a lot time it requires for cryptocurrency to realize floor, contemplating that a lot of these in energy maintain a vested curiosity in holding issues as they’re. Glancing at historical past, I’m assured its adoption will likely be faster than the transfer from cowrie shells to fiat.

Yet another time about inclusion

By providing a fairer and extra clear monetary system, cryptocurrencies and blockchain pose a substitute for typical monetary providers. Recognizing cryptocurrency and blockchain for monetary inclusion and searching past cell cash and banking infrastructures are essential to catering to folks’s want for entry to inexpensive monetary providers. A user-friendly platform is required to facilitate the utilization for people and companies. With this, anybody may entry the advantages with out intensive information of blockchain. Crypto would doubtless be accepted by retailers, serving to foster the supply of economic inclusion on a part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Growth Targets. However, regulatory frameworks and monetary schooling shouldn’t be understated when tackling monetary exclusion.

In the end, it turns into obvious that what blockchain threatens to switch is the very nature of the monetary system by bypassing the difficulty of belief. As a result of its brevity, the article overlooked many technical points of blockchain, comparable to custodial and noncustodial wallets, decentralized and centralized exchanges, and various kinds of blockchains, cryptocurrencies and consensus mechanisms, however I encourage everybody to set out on the journey of exploring (“googling”) these and different ideas. Having carried out analysis on this matter for a substantial period of time, albeit it’s a tedious endeavor, I can guarantee you it’s a thought-provoking and knowledge-enhancing one. Since a lot of blockchain continues to be in its infancy, it’s time to begin studying about it now.

This text doesn’t include funding recommendation or suggestions. Each funding and buying and selling transfer includes threat, and readers ought to conduct their very own analysis when making a choice.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed below are the writer’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or characterize the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Dustin Jung is a blockchain fanatic. He holds two grasp’s levels within the fields of social science and administration research from the College of Freiburg, Worldwide Enterprise College Budapest, and the College of Buckingham. Having lived in Ghana from 2018 to 2019, Dustin rapidly turned keen about how blockchain can drive sustainable improvement in creating international locations.